The Gonzaga Bulldogs answered some questions yesterday by defeating Memphis on the road and ending a 4-game losing streak against the Tigers.
Question One: Can the Zags win on the road against good competition? The response is yes. No, Memphis is not the Memphis of the past three years but they are decent and have played pretty well this season in a much-improved Conference USA. The Tigers made a run, tied the game, but Gonzaga took over at the end, actually made some free throws, and won the game.
Question Two: Can the Zags win when Elias Harris isn't outstanding? Yes. Harris was 2-14 yesterday, finishing with 6 points and 6 rebounds. While he started the season as the unknown entity, Harris quickly established himself as one of the top freshman in the country, and at times has carried the Bulldogs. He had a poor game but Robert Sacre stepped up and became a third scorer and a defensive force.
Question Three: Are the Zags a top three seed? Yes. Right now they are. I never bought into the argument that they are targeted and get everybody's best shot in the WCC because of their success. But after seeing some other games this year (Oklahoma beating Texas yesterday jumps out), I am beginning to see how an off-game, even against a much inferior opponent, can translate into disaster. They will lose once more maximum, this season in conference and have done more than enough out of conference to earn a very high seed. The win against Illinois is looking better and better.
Question Four: Can the Zags replicate their furthest foray into the NCAA tourney and make it to the Elite Eight? Well, maybe this question wasn't answered. But one thing is certain. They are a much tougher and deeper team this year than last. Manny Arop has emerged lately as a solid defender and is an excellent rebounder for his size. If they get anything close to what they got from Will Foster yesterday, in any game, it is a huge bonus.
Matt Bouldin is undoubtedly the leader of the team. He is probably better than a lot of people, including myself, give him credit for being. However, as this team has evolved, it is apparent that coach Mark Few is recognizing, especially in the late game situations, that his strengths are off of the ball and not at the point. Steven Gray handled a lot of that duty yesterday and the results were very positive.
If you are a fan of Gonzaga, you have to be excited about the prospects for March.